Randy Olson doesn’t like to brag.
He’s told only a handful of friends about his latest accomplishment, and it’s highly unlikely that you’ll catch him wearing his latest trophy.
But if you want to see the 59-year-old’s face light up like a Christmas tree, ask him about the World Series.
Not the one where the Phillies beat the Rays.
No. Ask about the one where the Greenwood Ridge Dragons knocked off the Buffalo Indians, 3-2, to win the Men’s Senior Baseball League World Series in the 50-and-older division tournament in Phoenix.
“How’d you hear about that?” he laughed. “I don’t think I’ve told anyone about it, to tell you the truth. It’s just not something I tell people about.”
The Emergency Medical Services division chief for the Spokane Valley Fire Department has enjoyed a long-standing love affair with baseball, and that love flashes like a neon sign as he talks about the game.
“I have a passion for the game and I always have,” he said. “I promised my wife that I was going to keep playing the game as long I could and then I would hang it up. She said ‘You told me that 25 years ago.’ ”
At the rate he’s going, it will be a while before he begins to think about hanging up his cleats.
Quality arms are a rare commodity in senior men’s baseball, and Olson has one.
“The one thing I can do is go in there and throw strikes,” he said. “That’s important at this level. You don’t have to go out there and strike people out, and I don’t do that. You just have to throw strikes.
“I still have a pretty good fastball, but my best pitch is a straight overhand curveball that breaks straight down.”
To go with the strong arm, Olson’s legs are good and his stamina is first-rate.
“I played every inning down in Arizona,” he said. “When I wasn’t pitching, I was running down fly balls in the outfield.”
After trying to keep his baseball passion alive by playing modified fastpitch softball, Olson joined the Inland Northwest Men’s Baseball League as a pitcher.
“Softball is OK, but it’s not the same,” he said. “Baseball is baseball. I was older than a lot of players – in that league you can always play down with younger players, and I would be playing with guys as young as 18 or 19. I like it better now that I’m playing with guys closer to my own age. I’m now the old guy in the 50-and-over division in these tournaments. I’m looking forward to being the fresh, young kid in the 60-and-over division.”
Olson’s reputation as a pitcher spread through tournament play, along with his willingness to travel to tournaments.
“Everybody needs pitchers – they’re always looking to add arms, especially for a tournament,” he said. “That’s how I met the Greenwood Ridge team.”
The Dragons, sponsored by the Greenwood Ridge Winery near Philo, Calif., invited him to join their tournament squad and started him in the World Series.
The team swept all eight if its tournament games, coming from behind in the semifinals and finals to claim a second-consecutive title.
“I’ll be getting my ring sometime after the first of the year,” Olson laughed. “You win a World Series, you get a ring – and the winery is springing for them for all of its players. They gave me my uniform and told me they’d be glad to have me whenever I can play for them.”
The offers come from all over.
At one recent tournament, Olson found himself on the mound to face the Washington Titans, a senior squad from Seattle.
“I came up to the plate for the first time and I told the catcher, ‘I hate to tell you this, but I’m from Spokane,’ ” he said. “He said ‘That’s okay – I’m from Medical Lake.’ ”
The old-home feel for that game didn’t stop there.
“I heard someone yell ‘Hey Oly,’ ” Olson said. “That’s always been my nickname, so of course I looked up. But they weren’t yelling at me – they were yelling at a guy from the other team. I started to put two and two together. I went over and introduced myself and said, ‘You wouldn’t by any chance be John Olerud Sr. would you?’
“He was. My cousin, Larry Schreck, played baseball at Washington State University with him, so it was great to finally meet him. One thing led to another, and now I’m heading to Fort Myers, Florida, to play for them in the Roy Hobbs World Series.”
The fun won’t stop any time soon.
“I like to go to four or five tournaments a year,” he said. “And I’m excited about next year, when I can play with the 60-and-over players. Then there’s the 65-and-over. And the 70-and-over …”